By Yolanda Salazar
La Paz, Aug 2 (EFE).- The launch ceremony for the new, state-of-the-art building housing Bolivia’s bicameral Plurinational Legislative Assembly has exacerbated tensions between the ruling leftist MAS party and the opposition, which boycotted Monday’s event in protest over alleged unilateral measures and wasteful spending.
The presidents of the Chamber of Deputies, Freddy Mamani Laura, and the Senate, Andronico Rodriguez, inaugurated what is considered the latest icon of the Plurinational State of Bolivia, which the country (formerly the Republic of Bolivia) has been called since 2009 in recognition of its many languages and indigenous groups.
President Luis Arce and Vice President David Choquehuanca also took part in the inauguration.
The music and dances of Bolivia’s indigenous peoples were featured during the ceremony in La Paz, the seat of the country’s government, while blessings on lawmakers’ work in the new building were sought through an offering to Pachamama (Mother Earth).
During the ceremony, Arce said the building symbolizes a new era in which there is no place for “treason” or “traitors” and will be a space for an “organized people.”
He was apparently referring to the 2019 ouster of his political mentor, Evo Morales, who appeared to have narrowly won re-election to a fourth term that year but was subsequently forced from office. Morales, MAS’ most prominent figure, stepped down after losing the support of the armed forces amid widespread protests alleging fraud.
But MAS, which decried the ouster of Morales as a coup, returned to power last year when Arce won a landslide victory.
The earthquake-proof building, which began to be constructed in 2015 on a 44,000-square-meter (11-acre) surface area, has 25 stories, five of which are underground.
A cube-shaped section of the outside of the building represents all of the recognized Bolivian indigenous groups, while its interior houses wooden details and representations characteristic of those populations, Mamani said.
“Bolivia’s most modern” building is equipped with more than 300 security cameras, has ramps to facilitate access for disabled persons and will provide space for all Senate and lower-house committees, Mamani said, adding that the goal is to “centralize” the legislative offices and provide better attention to the Bolivian people.
In an interview with Efe, Mamani said the building is an icon of a new era in Bolivia and has the distinction of being the region’s second-largest parliament building.
But Bolivia’s opposition said it would not attend the inauguration of a building it blasted as a waste of money.
The centrist Civic Community (CC) coalition, headed by former President Carlos Mesa and Bolivia’s main opposition alliance, decided to boycott the ceremony.
It said its move was an “act of repudiation of the politics of waste and squandering of public funds” amid the “growing poverty of Bolivians” and inadequate health-care infrastructure.
“These huge expenditures are an affront to a country that showed during the pandemic the absolute precariousness of its health system, that today falls more than 100 hospitals short of meeting minimal international standards,” the CC legislators said in a statement.
The opposition lawmakers said construction of the building cost the equivalent of roughly $73.1 million.
Sen. Centa Rek of the right-wing Creemos coalition said for her part that the opposition’s rights and “legislative functions” have been stripped away, adding that it is not allowed “to participate in or influence the laws that are passed” and that people from low-land areas of the country, including the eastern city of Santa Cruz, are being excluded.
The previous congressional building, known as the Legislative Palace and the seat of the Bolivian Congress for more than 100 years, is expected to be converted into a museum. EFE